Writer, Church leader, Eccentric Nut, Marketer

I'm Church Leader, Writer, Speaker, Marketer, Kindness Project Founder, Broadcaster and Superhero. But most important I'm a Husband, Father and a worshiper of Jesus.

25 November 2008

Advent Conspiracy (How do we make gift giving relevant, real and RIGHT)

This video from the "Advent Conspiracy" movement that is making the rounds right now. Check it out.

Yep. They make a very solid point. How in the world do we make giving relevant? Is this the revolution that is needed? Can I give people water AND still give my aunt Helga a commemorative coin collection?

If you're a part of Freedom House... this will likely be this Sunday's "Hot Topic" so if you have ideas and want to be a part of our panel... email me dave@freedomhouse.ca. If you're not from Freedom House but have some thoughts... please comment, email me, or post up a video on YouTube and tell me about it so I can share it.

I don't think Christmas gift giving is as open and shut as it appears to be (on either side of the argument). As a family, we don't give big extravagant gifts. Truthfully... it's mostly because we fall into the "can barely afford to make it through Christmas" category. Each year I have no idea how God will provide so that we can give... but He does. Each year... there is some specific source of money that unexpectedly comes our way... and we give it as gifts to others. I've stopped to ponder this a bit.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:10-11

I believe that the problem with the disparity of wealth in the world, is NOT because of our generosity at Christmas. It's because we're NOT generous the rest of the year. But God says that he'll give seed to the sower so that we can be generous on ALL occasions!

Last Christmas I chatted with good good friend of mine. He IS as generous of a person as I've ever met. It's not only a personal thing... it's a spiritual gift... it's part of his ministry... and subsequently, God gives him some deep revelation and insight in the area that I'll always stop and listen to. He was frustrated with the movement to stop giving each other gifts at Christmas (even though it's VERY well motivated)... because it brings him great joy to be generous to those he loves and ministers too. He actually THINKS about how he can "bless" and "encourage" those around him... and he does it. To tell him to bake some cookies and dig a well would go against everything within him. Not that he doesn't want to dig a well... he'd just assume to both.

Here's my thing. I believe that giving at Christmas DOES communicate the "reason for the season." Has our culture allowed it to distract from it too? Heck yes... Absolutely. Do most think past the surface, "It Christmas... me must buy him Old Spice... grunt"? Lamentably no. BUT...

This story appears in Matthew, Mark and John:

Jesus was at Bethany, a guest of Simon the Leper. While he was eating dinner, a woman came up carrying a bottle of very expensive perfume. Opening the bottle, she poured it on his head. Some of the guests became furious among themselves. "That's criminal! A sheer waste! This perfume could have been sold for well over a year's wages and handed out to the poor." They swelled up in anger, nearly bursting with indignation over her.

But Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? She has just done something wonderfully significant for me. You will have the poor with you every day
for the rest of your lives. Whenever you feel like it, you can do something for them. Not so with me.

One year we sponsored a child through Compassion Canada (see the link on the right of my blog) on behalf of our family in an attempt to not just burn money we don't have on something meaningless. Some were touched. We loved it because WE love Compassion Canada and are big supporters.

But I'm afraid something was lost in translation. I suspect that somewhere deep down, we may have actually created a divide instead of a connection as we opened our sweaters, coffee makers and chocolate letters (Mom) that our loved ones had thoughtfully and sacrificially hand-picked for us... because they love us and wanted to show it to us through their generosity. Through giving things that would be meaningful for US. It's kinda what giving is. It's why it's so powerful.

My Mom spends an entire year stopping into roadside country shops and Discount strip malls searching for things that will tickle us to open up Christmas morning. Often my Dad will build us amazing wooden gifts. Gifts that mean something. Through thoughtfulness, invested time, generosity, sacrifice... they've communicated their LOVE to me. To the "unique, one-of-a-kind individual me" who finds himself in a selfish, cold, culture on a day to day basis.

Isn't THIS the goal for Christians? To love our neighbors and communicate that God loves them through our kindness in the culture and language they'll understand? See... my heart breaks for my country and those in it. I believe that Jesus was born in a manger, lived a sinless life, died naked on a cross so that his message of sacrifice, freedom and salvation could be taken to the ends of the earth. Including my end of the earth. It's the filter through which I make all of life's decisions. The gift of Christ was COSTLY. It's was a high gift. For Christians to not participate in a season where our culture is actively being SELFLESS in honor of Jesus... somehow doesn't add up.

So... how do you make Christmas gift giving relevant, real and RIGHT?


Anonymous said...

Well said... the one thing that I would like everyone to think about is this:

Poor people get hungry at other times of the year... not just thanksgiving and Christmas. why not bless your family at Christmas and bless the poor the rest of the year?

I believe Christians should practice Christmas in Moderation, we all tend to get out of control but as long as your heart is one of giving, instead of obligation I say have at er.

Notes from the Tall, Dutch Guy said...

If people actually gave because they wanted to show thier love, they wouldn't do it just on christams, they would do it all year. Thats why this arguement is completely flawed. We in north america have been made to beleive that material gifts equals love and affection, it does not. Accually giving other people material gifts can be done in completely selfish motives. How is this you ask, well because it become an issue of pride and wanting to look really generous in front of others.

1"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

On another point, the idea that we can give both material gifts to friends and family, and also give drinking water to little johnny in mexico is also flawed. Here's why... it doesn't happen.
and lets be honest, 90% of what we get we dont even need. Its just us wanting more crap becase it makes us feel good.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what you say Tall, Dutch Guy... i would just throw out these thoughts. God loved to bless those that followed him. His faithful children were extremely wealthy. If we are created in God's own image doesnt it suppose that built in each of us is to give one anther things that make us happy? I believe that is the reason that it feels so great to give. On Christmas i could care less if i get one gift, but i am absolutely bummed if i dont get to give them, not because I want to feel surperior to my family and friends but because it turns me on more than anything else and i truley believe that that is intstilled in me by my creator.

I believe that Christmas is WAY out of control for many but I tell you I love to give to family and i love giving to charity. In our culture we have a day set aside where we all get togeher share a meal and exchange gifts in celebration of the biggest gift ever given. why not observe it and then spen the other 364 days taking care of others.

im no expert bt that is just my thoughts

Paul said...

I agree completely with Dutch Guy - Anonymous' argument and this post are completely flawed. Instead of paving the way (as Christians) by being revolutionists and "counter culture" we have fully embraced aspects of the "season" that have absolutely nothing to do at with Christ. I would even argue that 90% of what we do at Christmas is contrary to Christ and His message. In fact, I think the way Christians celebrate Christmas in North America breaks the heart of God. We simply DO NOT give Christ the attention He deserves during our "celebration" of "Christ"mas, but instead embrace a "holiday" event created by a pagan world.

Excessive shopping, over-spending, over-eating, decorating, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, gingerbread houses, cards, etc... how is Christ honored (or pleased with) any of that?

Dave Carrol said...

I used to make a big deal and a take a stand against the meaningless symbols of our modern Christmas.

then I realized that they were just meaningless symbols of our modern Christmas... and there was good reason for my mother in law to be frustrated that she couldn't give us a Santa figurine because we thought that it came between me and Jesus.

I'm not sure Jesus gives a whooping funt about gingerbread or the origin of Christmas trees. I think he's quite secure in himself. They're just meaningless things until we attach undo value to them (which yes... many do)

I think Jesus looks at people's hearts and judges their motives. And yes I do think that their is spending madness that goes on and the entitlement that goes along with gift giving is ludicrous... but why is there such a good feeling associated with Christmas?

When my family used to all get together for Christmas morning... it was my most favorite day 3 hours of the year. We'd laugh at the funny things we'd give each other because there would be a story attached. Thought put into it... meaning and love. We were caught in NO corporate traps and Jesus was a very real part of our understanding... and it was wonderful.

And the thing about North American's mistakenly equating material things with love... is a good argument for sure and yes that's not good... But if that is a way that is a language that people understand... than should we not use that language and discover the way to communicate Jesus with it? It's not about our preferences... it's about speaking how others hear isn't it?

And maybe to some it means that Jesus is best communicated by not giving a gift. But to others not.

This discussion is good.

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